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Good Question: What Can Watching Sports Do To Our Bodies?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was the athletes doing all the work in Thursday night’s Wild-Avalanche Game 7. But plenty of fans had increased heart rates, higher blood pressure and sweaty palms – and those were the people that weren’t jumping up and down.

“I’m pretty sure I wasn’t breathing for a solid 10 minutes,” said Kailah Miller of Inver Grove Heights.

Experts say most of us shouldn’t have to worry about the effect all of this excitement has on our bodies.

“Emotional stress causes emotional changes in the body,” said Dr. Michael Miedema, a cardiologist with the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, which is part of Allina Health. He says our brain signals to our large organs to release adrenaline, which causes our blood pressure and heart rate to increase.

“That’s all part of the fight or flight system. When our adrenaline goes up, it enables you to run away from the lion that’s chasing you. That’s where it developed,” he said. “It’s the same causes, whether it’s an emotional response or physical response, that produces the same response in the body.”

Dr. Nicole Lavoi, a kinesiologist with the University of Minnesota, said our emotional responses are even more intensified when the event is uncertain and is very important – two characteristics of Game 7. She also points out the relatively short duration of the game makes it easier for us to calm down after a few hours.

Studies have shown an increase risk of heart attacks during intense events like the Super Bowl or the World Cup, but Miedema says it shouldn’t be a big concern.

“I think this is the most important point,” he said. “Heart attacks don’t occur randomly. Heart attacks occur over many years, and eventually you need something that’s a tipping point. For some people, that’s an intense sporting event, but these people were destined to have a heart attack at some point.”

He said following a healthy lifestyle lowers your risk much more than avoiding an intense sporting event.

And many Wild fans are willing to take the “risk” if it means another round of Wild hockey.

“I can go to June,” said Wild fan Kirsten Rogers.

“And I will nurture my body with Summit and that will help take care of it,” added her husband, Will.

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